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Ben's Chili Bowl

1213 U St. NW, Washington, DC - (202) 667-0909
Posted By Cilla Reesman on 1/28/2005 10:49:00 PM
The existing review is great and accurate as far as it goes. But, you missed the fact that Ben's also makes the best French fries for hundreds of miles around. Ask them to do them a bit crisp and you will be in fry heaven. Heaps of fries will arrive in a red plastic "boat". Try some Old Bay Seasoning (a regional concoction used when boiling crabs) on them! They are golden and crunchy on the outside and moist inside. If you like your iced tea Southern Style, brewed with sugary syrup, Ben's version is a classic and the only type of iced tea available.

Although Ben Ali is retired, "Mrs. Ben" is in the shop nearly everyday. You will recognize her from the many family pictures on the walls. She is a fount of historical information on the area, and has made some of that history personally, so ask her to join your table and you are in for a real treat.

Finally, there is a supurb neighborhood walking tour boooklet that is usually available at Ben's. If they are out of it they can usually tell you where to find one nearby. As the neighborhood was once home to many jazz artists and clubs and also is near a very moving Civil War Memorial, you will be amply rewarded for an after lunch stroll.

The whole area is undergoing a glorious revival, but Ben's has stayed the course through think and thin. EVERYONE goes to Ben's and is treated like family.

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Scorecard

5 - Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
Rate this place
Half smokes on the griddle await their buns and a blanket of chili.
"Half smokes on the griddle await their buns and a blanket of chili."
Michael Stern





This end-view of a chili dog shows the mustard that is customarily applied before the chili. The dog itself is excellent!
"This end-view of a chili dog shows the mustard that is customarily applied before the chili. The dog itself is excellent!"
Michael Stern


A half smoke blanketed with chili: it's definitely the way to go at Ben's, but the half-smoke all by itself is something special, too.
"A half smoke blanketed with chili: it's definitely the way to go at Ben's, but the half-smoke all by itself is something special, too."
Michael Stern


We were lucky enough to be sitting in a booth at Ben's when this sweet potato cake was brought out front, freshly cut. Wow, what a treat!
"We were lucky enough to be sitting in a booth at Ben's when this sweet potato cake was brought out front, freshly cut. Wow, what a treat!"
Michael Stern


Half-smokes and chili dogs are served with corrugated potato chips on the side. But we believe it's worth spending an extra $2.05 for a plate of Ben's French fries.
"Half-smokes and chili dogs are served with corrugated potato chips on the side. But we believe it's worth spending an extra $2.05 for a plate of Ben's French fries."
Michael Stern


Ben's serves one of the best sweet potato pies anywhere. It is so good that we plowed into the point of the wedge before I remembered to take a picture. That's why this photo shows only the outer edge. I cropped out the bite marks.
"Ben's serves one of the best sweet potato pies anywhere. It is so good that we plowed into the point of the wedge before I remembered to take a picture. That's why this photo shows only the outer edge. I cropped out the bite marks."
Michael Stern


Ben's tasty chili works equally well on their burgers.
"Ben's tasty chili works equally well on their burgers."
Cliff Strutz


A huge, sloppy and addictive plate of French fries topped with Ben's alluring dark chili and school-bus-orange cheese makes one heck of a naughty meal ... or a good side dish for two or three or four people to share with their half smokes.
"A huge, sloppy and addictive plate of French fries topped with Ben's alluring dark chili and school-bus-orange cheese makes one heck of a naughty meal ... or a good side dish for two or three or four people to share with their half smokes."
Michael Stern


The one dish unique to Washington, DC: a half-smoke. They are sold from street carts throughout the city, but there's none better than the one you get at Ben's. The sound of biting into one, as juices burst, is almost as good as the taste.
"The one dish unique to Washington, DC: a half-smoke. They are sold from street carts throughout the city, but there's none better than the one you get at Ben's. The sound of biting into one, as juices burst, is almost as good as the taste."
Michael Stern


Everyone at the table who sampled the moist strawberry cake declared it a winner!
"Everyone at the table who sampled the moist strawberry cake declared it a winner!"
Cliff Strutz


Ben's signature dish: a half-smoke topped with with chili in a steamed-soft bun. Below the chili and atop the sausage are mustard and onion, of course.
"Ben's signature dish: a half-smoke topped with with chili in a steamed-soft bun. Below the chili and atop the sausage are mustard and onion, of course."
Michael Stern


After finding Florida Avenue Grill not open for another hour, we headed over to Ben's for a half smoke breakfast, which includes eggs and your choice of home fries or grits. The chili does not come with it, but the friendly waitress was happy to include a generous portion on top of the half smoke.
"After finding Florida Avenue Grill not open for another hour, we headed over to Ben's for a half smoke breakfast, which includes eggs and your choice of home fries or grits. The chili does not come with it, but the friendly waitress was happy to include a generous portion on top of the half smoke."
Cliff Strutz


Ben Ali stands in front of the legendary restaurant he created ... that is now run by his sons. Mr. Ali passed away in 2009 at the age of 82.
"Ben Ali stands in front of the legendary restaurant he created ... that is now run by his sons. Mr. Ali passed away in 2009 at the age of 82."
Michael Stern



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